Photos Courtesy of De Alaska a Patagonia.

Overland travel conjures up inspiring images of the open road, majestic scenery, freedom, and discovery. It is about exploration-setting out to find your way off the beaten track, on your terms, where the primary focus is the journey. In this increasingly connected age, modern-day adventurers have even more capability to not only discover new cultures, but to get involved with the communities they visit—transforming the way they see the world, and themselves.

When Claudia and Cristian, a lawyer and an actor from Chile, got married a few years ago, they started to plan the trip that they had long talked and dreamed about together. Combining their individual passions for travel and automobiles, they set out to embark on their first overland adventure. Their incredible journey would begin in Alaska and end in Patagonia, traveling through 16 countries along the way—De Alaska a Patagonia was born!

Feeling something was “missing” during the initial stage of their trip in 2013, Claudia and Cristian began to incorporate volunteering into their travels, giving more meaning to their time on the road. To date, they have volunteered with seven local organizations (and counting!) in Latin America, using their skills for good, to give back to communities as they go. They have participated in a wide-range of activities from teaching classes in acting, math, geography and English, to showing kids how to surf and hula-hoop, and lending a hand to wildlife conservation projects and social-impact organizations. Most importantly, Claudia and Cristian have dedicated themselves to joining in activities with youths—those who benefit the most from spending quality time with caring adults. Recalling a deeply moving experience volunteering for a month at an orphanage in Ocozocoautla, Mexico, “We love to work with kids because they are very innocent, and you can really make a change with them for the future of the local community.”

These unforgettable experiences volunteering have strengthened their commitment to purposeful travel as their journey continues. “We would love to volunteer in every country we visit, because it is by far the best experience” says Claudia. “You become a traveler, not a tourist.” This sentiment is a powerful reminder of the impact volunteerism. Volunteering connects travelers to the places they visit, enables them to interact authentically with local people, and get involved and give back to a community. Travellers gain unique insight, and get an intimate look into a culture—how a country works, its problems and character. It takes travel beyond a standard tourist experience, and elevates it to something genuinely rewarding and memorable.

Currently in Chile, with plans to travel into 2016, Claudia and Cristian’s journey has been a transformative life experience, with each day a new opportunity to discover, learn and grow. “We are totally different people after this experience, and volunteering was a big part of this change” says Claudia. “You realize we are all the same and we are all looking to have good time. We learn to unlearn the need for material things and to care about what is really important, like emotions and everyday life.” Another profound change for the couple has been the questioning and rethinking of what constitutes success in life. “We have changed our meaning of success. After this trip, we will only feel successful if we are living by our principles, are happy, and contributing to make society better. Definitely, this trip makes you a better person.”

Follow Claudia and Cristian’s inspiring journey -photos, videos and stories De Alaska a Patagonia and connect on Facebook.

For Volunteer Opportunities and to Do Good As You Go, connect

At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people and organizations, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight global initiatives, innovation, community development, and social impact. You can read more stories like this when you subscribe.